Navy Federal Credit Union authored and paid for the placement of this article.

If you polled the entire population of American servicemembers and their families about car-buying experiences, very few would likely describe their experience as something positive. Easy. Streamlined. Quick. Stress-free. Words typically not associated with getting a new car.

To be fair, it’s a large purchase, and unless you’re a multi-millionaire car-collecting enthusiast, it’s not something that happens more than a few times throughout the lifespan of a normal military career. Whether you’re purchasing a minivan or SUV to make room for the new baby on the way, or you’re a veteran looking for a sporty convertible to cruise the backroads of your home state, the process can be convoluted at best.

The first step to any auto shopping adventure, whether online or in person, is to figure out just how much vehicle you can afford. That means having a realistic picture of your monthly finances, a good credit score, and an idea of just what your dream vehicle should cost. One advantage of the military pay scale is that you know exactly how much income to expect over the lifecycle of your loan.

Take the time to figure out exactly what you need for your new or used vehicle purchase to happen. Armed with that knowledge, figure out a budget, evaluate your credit score, and if there’s some work needed, come up with a financial plan and stick to it.

Once you’ve decided to take the plunge and begin shopping for your next car, Navy Federal Credit Union is here to help with auto loan preapprovals at competitive rates.

An auto loan preapproval from Navy Federal is essentially a maximum amount you’ll be able to borrow in order to buy a new or used car. Having a preapproval in hand can give you a great head start on the entire process and improve your negotiating at the dealership since you know exactly how much you’re able to spend.

The process is simple. Once you’ve decided on a realistic maximum that you’re willing (and able) to spend on your next car, you can apply online, on our mobile app, at a local branch, or by phone. You’ll need to gather some information to submit with your application, such as employment, income status, as well as any vehicle trade-in information, and the length of the loan you’re looking for.

Preapprovals can only be used to purchase vehicles through dealerships and not private seller purchases. Keep in mind, if you’re a servicemember stationed overseas, some foreign dealers may not accept a preapproved auto loan.

Once you’ve submitted your application, Navy Federal will decision in seconds in most cases. If approved, you’ll receive a text message and/or email letting you know if you’ve been preapproved for the amount requested.

Next, Navy Federal will issue a check with the funds ready to go, available to be picked up at the nearest Navy Federal Credit Union branch, or simply mailed to your home. Whichever is most convenient for you! The amount on the check will be for the maximum amount you’re approved for, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it all, so feel secure in negotiating the best price possible before you buy.

The Navy Federal team is also aware that when shopping for a car, timing can be important. The ideal vehicle may not be around next week while you’re impatiently waiting for a loan pre-approval. That’s why Navy Federal typically provides auto loan decisions in seconds, allowing you to jump directly into the car search as soon as you’re ready.

Armed with a maximum loan amount, you can now confidently begin shopping for the perfect vehicle that fits your family’s needs and your budget, knowing that whatever you choose won’t break the bank.

If the streamlined loan preapproval wasn’t enough of an incentive, Navy Federal Car Buying Service, powered by TrueCar1, should be the final motivator. Using their online search options, pick the make and model of vehicle you are looking for whether it’s diesel, electric, etc…You can find upfront offers on cars from local TrueCar-Certified Dealers.

Select the features and accessories you want, and the Car Buying Service, powered by TrueCar, will show you what others have paid for similar options so you can feel confident you’re getting the value for your hard-earned money.

So when it’s time to start shopping for your next vehicle, let Navy Federal Credit Union help you through the process. It’s easy and quick, plus you could enjoy an affordable payment with flexible terms.

1TrueCar operates the Navy Federal Car Buying Service. Navy Federal is not responsible for any offer, purchase, lease or service provided by or through the Navy Federal Car Buying Service.